Sunday, January 18, 2009

Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace. (The Peavar and Volokhonsky translation.) I'm not sure what to say about this. I hadn't read it in about 12 years and I have to say it was a lot of fun - it's a big juicy novel. I enjoyed the characters and even the history(diatribes)- in fact I thought the background was the most fun. I had more appreciation for prince Andrei this time, and less sympathy for Pierre. But by the end I was enraged at so many things. The ending- the relationships of Natasha and Pierre, Marya and Nikolai, were so disappointing. Even more than in Anna Karenina, I felt that the women weren't actually people. And Tostoy's attitudes about marriage were infuriating, even in context of the time. Not that the center of a marriage is creating a family, but the relationship between husband and wife is so lopsided. I don't like the implication that the wife is almost solely a vessel for the reflection and refinement of her husband's personality. Natasha was especially obnoxious, and while Marya had potential to be an interesting person, it didn't happen. I want to be clear, I liked the happy domestic scenes (and the breastfeeding), it was Tolstoy's condescending and limiting views on the rest of the role of a wife that was infuriating. The scene with Marya's diary almost made me vomit. But I guess that I've changed a lot in a dozen years, maybe I'm less able to accept things uncritically, or maybe I just have another perspective on life.

After posting, I realized that I had better explain, because I know it's the family tradition to love Pierre. So here's why Pierre is basically worthless. Yes he has a good heart. I like him, especially when he's drinking, feels bad, and won't get off the couch. But his role as an intellectual is a monumental waste. He's a follower - a guru-hopper - he doesn't have any substance. His feelings are good, but he never develops any discipline. What he really needs is a regular job - all that money is bad for him. He's really only any good when he has something to do. At the very least, he needs a counterpoint, a challenge; but Andrei's dead, and Natasha is quite the opposite.

1 comment:

rosie said...

I have so many random mental pictures from War and Peace. Like the outfits they wore(ball gowns, and frilly suits) and hundreds of soldiers on horse back, with short little Napolean, and that one woman(can't remember names...) who was very plain, except when she was being selfless, then her eyes were beautiful.